When you take the time to conduct market research, you stand to gain a critical long-run perspective on the issues and decisions you are faced with as you manage your business on a day to day basis. What you learn can be used to create a business or marketing plan, or to validate a planned course of action. They can also be used to answer a whole heap of questions such as:
- When, where and how customers ‘consume’ your products or services?
- Are you on-target with your pricing strategy?
- What need does your service or product fulfill?
- Who are your real competitors, and what is your brand’s image relative to theirs?
- What is the single most important benefit your brand should be seen to be offering – and why would people believe this to be true?
There are essentially two kinds of research out there. Primary research covers things like interviews, surveys, questionnaires and focus groups. Secondary research analyzes data that has been published by someone else.
While research is research, it would be careless of me not to point out that depending wholly on one or the other is a big mistake. Relying on the published work of others is a great place to start but, because research initiatives are designed with a specific set of objectives in mind, other factors considered ‘out of scope’ for that particular study could very well be super relevant to you.
To get the most bang out of your research buck, you really need to strike a balance between:
- ‘talking’ to real customers about their needs, wants and expectations,
- the crazy amount of data we have access to with today’s CRM systems, web reporting, social media, and databases, and
- (let’s be honest here) gut instinct.
Here are seven ways you can use market research for your business.
Discover Your Target Market
There are lots of people who put the cart before the horse… converting an idea into a final product, and then trying to find a market for it. It is far more effective to first identify your ideal target client, understand their needs/pain points, and then design a product and pitch that meets/alleviates them. By starting your efforts with the right target market, you will see faster results, improved efficiency and greater overall performance from your marketing campaigns.
Understand Your Customers Better
When you’re familiar with your customers and their customer journey, you’ll be able to create customer personas that help with creating content and marketing strategies that deliver results.
Identify (and Out-Perform) Your Competition
It is important to identify your competitors so that you can keep an eye on them and what they are doing. Sign up for their lists and purchase some of their products. While you should never copy your competitors, you should stay familiar with their products and strategies so that you can learn from their successes/failures and work to maintain your unique competitive edge.
Identify New Opportunities & Trends
As you’re doing market research, you’ll be better equipped to not only identify oncoming trends but also make an informed decisions around which ones you want in on, and which ones you are happy to watch evolve from the sidelines.
Avoid Marketing Snafus
Almost as important as making informed decisions shaped by good research is the ability to ask the right questions, in the right way, of the right people. Designed and implemented poorly, research can steer you in the wrong direction. If you want a laugh (and a cringe or two), see Ad Week’s list of advertising and marketing fails.
Track Your Brand’s Health
Doing market research is a great way to get a pulse on how different audiences see your brand. You’ll get the answers to questions like: How do customers perceive you? How does your brand stack up against the competition? What characteristics, traits, and experiences do customers associate with your brand?
Keep Up with New Technologies
Keeping up with the latest technology and tools in your industry mitigates the risk of falling behind both your competition and your customers.
So there you have it. My advice is to treat market research as a way to keep up with the trends within your space, make better business decisions and maintain your edge. And by all means, listen to your gut. But remember sometimes anecdotal stories can be misleading; one story or review on its own could simply be an outlier. Aim for data-driven gut decisions.
And really, market research does not have to be a scary, expensive, drawn out process. There are so many easy ways of gaining the insight you need to move forward confidently (Facebook polls, Twitter and YouTube analytics, your MailChimp subscriber activity reports, online surveys sent out via SurveyMonkey or even just hopping onto Quora – to name just a few).